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valuing waste

 University of Amsterdam [postdoc)

I have worked at the Anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam where I explored waste and how it is valued in different settings such as households, cities, and markets.


Take as an example organic waste. In practice, organic waste is not without value but valued and thereby transformed, in diverse ways: as fertiliser in households, as food for rats and birds in cities, or as a commodity in the circular economy. As waste is valued differently in different situations, the humans involved engage in different ways with soils, animals, and microbes. Simultaneously, sustainability, as a value-in-the-making, takes diverse shapes, and gives rise to new, more or less equal, relations between humans and nonhumans, and among humans.


Or take plastic. In the interest of sustainability some high-income countries have contracts with low-income countries to process their plastic in a supposedly sustainable manner. This means that plastic in the Netherlands is bundled in bales, and then travels around the world on shipping containers, ending up in Turkey, Vietnam, or Ethiopia. There it might be further recycled by companies and waste workers, it may end up in a landfill, or might be burned on site. Still leading to environmental pollution. Plastic thus becomes embedded in transnational economic relations and the commodification of waste may generate new inequalities between countries in the Global North and Global South, or reproduce old ones.



Mandy de Wilde and Fenna Smits (forthcoming) Knowing with algae: on the maintenance of a wastewater treatment prototype in an ecovillage. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society.


Fenna Smits and Mandy de Wilde (2023) "We are part of nature": caring for waste water in an infrastructural experiment in the Flevopolder. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology.

Herre de Bondt, Mandy de Wilde, and Rivke Jaffe (2022) Rats claiming rights? More-than-human acts of denizenship in Amsterdam. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. DOI:10.1111/plar.12530.

Michael Bernstein, Thomas Franssen, Rob Smith, and Mandy de Wilde (2022) The European Commission’s Green Deal is an opportunity to rethink harmful practices of research and innovation policy. AMBIO: A Journal of Environment and Society. 52: 508 - 517.

Mandy de Wilde and Sarah Parry (2022) Feminised concern or feminist care? Reclaiming gender normativities in zero waste living. The Sociological Review. 70 (3): 526 - 546

Thomas Franssen and Mandy de Wilde (2021) A clean-energy future isn't set in stone. Nature Geoscience. `14 (9): 636-637.

Mandy de Wilde, Weera Koopman and Annemarie Mol (2020) Clean in Times of Covid-19: on Hygiene and Pollution. Somatosphere.

popular media

Groene groei is niet de enige weg naar een schone toekomst. Op-ed voor NRC Handelsblad. 6 September, 2021

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